49ers

The number of people who hate the NFL has grown, but worse...

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AP

The number of people who hate the NFL has grown, but worse...

The latest leak-assault on NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s position came and went, and we are back in that familiar holding pattern – the NFL takes a blow, Goodell’s job security takes a media pounding, and then we move on to the next crisis.

Which may be just as the owners really want it – only at a lower cost.

And that remains the core problem here. Money.

I know. Who would have guessed?

Goodell has turned a once-popular hire into a lightning rod for disaffection with the NFL. He is blamed for things that are his fault, things that aren’t his fault, and things that would be his fault if you could forget that he works for 32 other people.

But the story that Jerry Jones and like-minded billionaires are still loaded for bear about his contract as well as his conduct comes out on Sundays (normally), when the largest audience is stuck into their football regimen.

And why all this? It isn’t just to save a few million on the commissioner’s office. It’s because the NFL is shrinking culturally, and there’s no spreadsheet for that. Youth football participation is down. Ratings are down (Sunday’s Steelers-Lions game was routed by the World Series). Medical and ethical concerns are rampant. Technology is conspiring with younger viewing tastes to lower interest. The game makes political firestorms every week. Los Angeles is a sinkhole. Even the Las Vegas bookmakers are seeing much more action on college games than pro games.

And someone has to be made to pay for this, so Jones, his ox being gored with the Ezekiel Elliott issue, has turned on Goodell.

But the real problem is the promise made 10 years ago that the NFL would have $25 billion in annual revenues by 2027. It prioritized a furious growing of the business with a neglect of the sport and its practitioners, and made an already arrogant corporation downright soul-free.

In short, the number of people who hate the NFL has grown, but worse, the number of people who could take it or leave it has grown even more. It’s a bit like church – once you stop seeing the value in attending, you decide to sleep in more often, and soon you’re sleeping in all the time.

But in agitating for Goodell’s firing, Jones and his compatriots lose the one thing that separates them from the angry mobs outside the gate. Goodell, misery farm that he is, gives good shield for The Shield, and if he has failed, it is in keeping the owners free from public harm. They wanted the spotlight, they got it, and now they can’t see clearly for all the flop sweat.

So whether Goodell leaves or not really isn’t important any more. The curtain has been moved, Oz is revealed, and a growing number of people don’t like the show. That $25 billion seems like it’s going to be a million miles away, if it happens at all.

LeBron James: Colin Kaepernick ‘had a vision like Martin Luther King’

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USATSI/AP

LeBron James: Colin Kaepernick ‘had a vision like Martin Luther King’

LeBron James is an avid football fan. He's now an even bigger Colin Kaepernick fan than the sport. Following the Cavaliers' practice on Sunday, James opened up on Kaepernick and his absence from the NFL. 

"I've commended Kap, and for him to sacrifice everything for the greater good for everyone, for what he truly believed in, the utmost respect to him," James said to ESPN. "Obviously he had a vision like Martin Luther King and like some of our all-time greats that people couldn't see further than what they were doing at the point and time. And Muhammad Ali and things of that nature."

James believes the masses don't truly understand what Kaepernick was doing when he first took a knee as a protest against social and racial injustices in America. For his actions, James respects Kaepernick choosing his beliefs over his sport.

"When it's something that's new and it's something that people are not educated about or don't understand what your beliefs are all about, people are so quick to judge and people are so quick to say that what you're doing is wrong," James said. "For him to sacrifice the sport that he plays and to sacrifice the things he's done his whole life because he knew what he believed in, I salute him. I salute and respect that."

Add James to the list of those who believe Kaepernick is being blackballed by the NFL for taking a knee last season. The more games he watches, the more James sees the evidence on the wall. 

"I don't represent the NFL. I don't know their rules and regulations. But I do know Kap is getting a wrong doing, I do know that," James believes. "Just watching, he's an NFL player. He's an NFL player and you see all these other quarterbacks out there and players out there that get all these second and third chances that are nowhere near as talented as him. It just feels like he's been blackballed out of the NFL. So, I definitely do not respect that."

Kaepernick, who recently turned 30 years old, appeared in 12 games for the 49ers in the 2016-17 season. Through the air he completed 59.2 percent of his passes and ended the year with 2,241 yards, 16 touchdowns and four interceptions. Kaepernick also added 468 yards and two more scores on the ground. 

"The only reason I could say he's not on a team is because the way he took a knee," James said. "That's the only reason. I watch football every Sunday, every Thursday, every Monday night. I see all these quarterbacks -- first-string, second-team, third-team quarterbacks -- that play sometimes when the starter gets hurt or are starters that play. Kap is better than a lot of those guys. Let's just be honest."

For his career, Kaepernick has thrown for 12,271 yards and 72 touchdowns to 30 interceptions. With his speed as a dual-threat quarterback, Kaepernick has also gained 2,300 yards rushing and 13 more touchdowns. 

Former 49ers quarterback takes over under center for Cardinals

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AP

Former 49ers quarterback takes over under center for Cardinals

TEMPE, Ariz. — Blaine Gabbert will get his first start for the Arizona Cardinals when they play the Texans in Houston on Sunday.

Coach Bruce Arians announced the decision after Friday's practice.

Drew Stanton, the starter the last two games, bruised his knee early in the Thursday night loss to Seattle last week. He stayed in the game but has been limited in practice all week.

Arians said it will be a game-time decision as to whether Stanton or recently signed Matt Barkley would be Gabbert's backup.

Gabbert will be making his 41st NFL start. He has a 9-31 record. He signed with Arizona last offseason and was the third quarterback until Carson Palmer broke his arm against the Los Angeles Rams in London and was lost for the season.